Ga. banker accused of losing millions faces judge
Lawyer for Aubrey Lee Price claims his client is broke, homeless
A south Georgia bank director accused of losing $40 million of investor dollars before vanishing in 2012 told a federal judge Thursday he's broke and has been working as a migrant worker for the last 18 months.
Glynn County deputies arrested Aubrey Lee Price, 47, Tuesday morning during a traffic stop on Interstate 95. Authorities said the 2001 Dodge Ram pickup truck was driving suspiciously slow -- 50 mph when the limit was 70 -- and pulled over for a window tint violation.
"During the course of the questions and interviews, it was apparent that the driver was not being upfront and honest," said Glynn County Sheriff Neal Jump.
Price was arrested for giving false information and the window tint violation. Once at the detention center, he gave his real name and deputies learned he was wanted by the FBI.
"He said, 'I'ma make you famous, and if you can accept the reward money I'ma make you rich,'" Deputy Justin Juliano said. "And I said, 'Well, who are you?' And he said, 'I'm Aubrey Lee Price.' And I said, 'Well, who is that?' And he said, 'I'm wanted by the FBI.'"
SLIDESHOW: Photo timeline of manhunt, capture
It was a stunning admission and the last thing Deputies Justin Juliano and Bryan Faulk expected when they pulled the truck over.
"He was extremely nervous," Juliano said. "His hands were shaking very badly. When I asked him for his license, he actually had a license in one hand, was looking through paperwork like he was looking for another, looking for something else or the license. And I had to point out to him I wanted the license in his hand. That's how nervous he was."
When the deputies looked at Price's IDs, they realized one was fake, and the pictures and information didn't match on either.
They arrested him, and at the jail he finally told them who he was.
"Once we found out who he was, he told us who he was. It was a relief to him," Faulk said. "It was like a weight lifted off his shoulders. You could see it in his face."
Faulk and Juliano said they are glad Price is off the streets, and Jump said he's proud they stepped up to make it happen.
"Our deputies got out, they were proactive, they did their job, they looked beyond what could have been a warning for a window tint," Jump said. "They looked beyond that and came up with someone who was wanted by the FBI."
One day after Price's arrest, the Ocala Police Department raided the place Price had been living. In addition to other evidence investigators may have found, officers reported removing a number of marijuana plants from the unit.
Price had disappeared in June 2012 after sending a rambling letter to his family and acquaintances saying he had lost millions of investment dollars and planned to kill himself. He vanished in June 2012 after boarding a ferry in Key West, Fla.
A Florida judge declared him dead about a year ago. But the FBI had said it didn't believe Price was dead and continued to search for him.
Prosecutors said Price raised $40 million from his bank and 115 investors, and lost much of the money. Prosecutors said he used a fake New York-based company to hide those millions and illegally wire it to personal accounts at other banks.
Price appeared before a federal magistrate in Brunswick on a one-count bank fraud indictment. He didn’t say anything, but his lawyer told the judge Price has been homeless for the last year and a half, had no assets and was working for cash as a migrant worker.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office asked that Price be held without bond. A bond hearing was set for 9 a.m. Monday in Savannah.
An estimated $17 million of the missing $40 million was from Montgomery Bank & Trust -- a small bank in Ailey, about 170 miles southeast of Atlanta, where Price acted as bank director, according to the bank's website. That bank was shut down in 2012.
In late 2010, some of Price's investors put at least $10 million into MB&T, which was listed in December 2010 as the state's most troubled institution, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. After locals contributed an additional $4 million, the investment was hailed as a success and was even highlighted in a January 2011 front page-article in the AJC, according to past reports.
The Securities and Exchange Commission soon claimed the investment was worthless as the assets had been depleted and most of its reserves were lost in trading, according to the Associated Press in 2012. In addition to wire fraud, the SEC alleges that losses between $20 million and $23 million were hidden from clients during a two-year period.
Price disappeared in mid-June 2012. A rambling confession that investigators believe he wrote indicated that he planned to kill himself.
His family told authorities then they believed he was dead. The FBI did not believe he was dead and offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
Price had ties to Florida and Georgia and may have traveled to Venezuela and Guatemala, according to the FBI.
Tracy Morris said she is a friend of one of Price's alleged victims.
"I can't believe he had the nerve to hide out so close to home, especially after so many peoples' lives were impacted," said Morris said. "It's disgusting."
Price faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million if convicted of initial federal charge in Georgia. Authorities say there U.S. Attorney in New York is expected to indict Price on additional charges.
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